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February 9, 2004
Everquest Online Adventures - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
31/10/2003SonySony Online1 (3000+ Online)G8+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
3000KBStereoYesNoSmallNo

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Who's that in the back?
As little as only 12 months ago, online gaming seemed like a concept for the PS2 that could go either way; while some people were convinced that it led the way to the future of gaming, others believed it would be just an extra accessory to go to waste. The prospect of playing against people over the other side of the world was something that PC gamers had enjoyed for years, which is probably why it seemed daunting to the devoted console gamers. Since then though, many top-notch PS2 titles with network support have been released, Sony’s network gaming has proved to be successful, and in my mind at least online gaming IS the future for consoles.

Everquest Online Adventures is a port of the popular massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) Everquest on the PC, which immerses the player in an online world with support for up to 3000 human players at the same time. While the original Everquest is almost 5 years old, one would think that the PS2 version would have been improved to look, sound and play better than a PC game from 1999… sadly this isn’t the case.

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That's quite a nice view.
If you hadn’t gathered by now, EQOA is one of the PS2’s few “Network Play Only” games; this means that you MUST have a broadband adapter, no ifs no buts no maybes. The entire game is played online, and the only thing you can do without being online is set up your user account; so there’s no training modes or extras for those hoping to get an offline sample of the game (unlike Hardware with it’s offline training mode). Another must for the game is a USB keyboard; while it isn’t required, you will find that talking (or rather typing) to other online players via the onscreen keyboard using the PS2 controller is rather frustrating and time consuming. There are user-assignable quick-speak shortcuts in the game, but a cheap USB keyboard is a lot easier, and shouldn’t set you back more than $20 from a local computer store (the majority of them work with the PS2 also; I’m yet to hear of any problems with generic USB keyboards).

EQOA plays out similarly to an American RPG (such as Summoner, or most PC-based RPGs) rather than the Japanese style (like the Final Fantasy series, and most console-based RPGs). You begin the game by creating your character, choosing a race and class for him/her, which not only determines how they look (which you can customize to a certain extent), but their fortes, weaknesses and abilities.

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Attack as a group.
So once you’ve created your character, the fat monk “Harry Ramsbottom” with grey hair and a beard for example, you then get immediately plunged into a living, breathing online world. There is a basic tutorial that guides you through the camera, controls and user interface, but before long you’ve fallen into the deep end and are dealt with simple quests such as “talking to the stableman” or “retrieving beetle carapace fragments”. The characters that give you quests never seem to elaborate much at all on what’s involved, which can make a simple 10 minute quest take several hours. One of the first quests I was sent on was to get some “beetle carapace fragments” and then return; with no details on what they were, or where to get them from. I spent hours perusing the traders inside the town I was at hunting for this item, only to find out that I had to leave the city limits and kill some beetles and retrieve the fragments myself! The lack of a map didn’t help my cause, and as for it being a training quest… well, it trained me never to make assumptions in EQOA.

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The Ice Giant - looks like mud.
While the majority of characters around you are static AI characters that have pre-determined speech and actions, you can see other characters running about, congregating, and planning; they’re actual people! Given that they’re not in too much of a hurry, you can stop them, have a chat and ask for help or offer assistance if you feel like it. This is where one of the main charms of EQOA comes into play; if you are stuck, chances are there’s somebody out there that can help you. All of those simple parts in the game where you can get stuck on something trivial (such as my beetle carapace incident above) can usually be solved by having a quick chat to someone else. As you progress throughout the game, it pays off to travel around in groups and attempt quests as a group; certain enemies are too large and powerful to combat alone. Guilds (similar to a clan) help out with this, as well as offering secrets and advice to the newer players, so joining a guild (or forming your own with friends) is a very wise move.

FEES...

As with many other games these days you must pay to play the game online. As mentioned in this review EQOA is an online only title so you MUST pay these fees to play after the initial free month. Payment is made by credit card - Visa, American Express, Mastercard Online or JCB. Here's the fees:
1 month: $17.98
3 months: $49.99
6 months: $89.99
12 months: $159.99

Unfortunately, EQOA is one of the ugliest games to rear its face on the PS2. I’ve seen some pretty dreadful-looking PS2 games in my time, and this one is one of the blandest I can remember. Even Dark Cloud; an RPG which was criticized for having average Zelda-like graphics, runs rings around EQOA (Actually, I thought Dark Cloud, while not great, looked acceptable -Dave). The player and enemy models are blocky and basic, while the landscapes and buildings unfortunately manage to look even worse. It’s almost as though the graphic designers took a smoke break halfway through development and forgot to come back; it looks like a half-finished, washed-out tech demo. Why people say that poor graphics are ok ‘just because it’s a MMORPG’ eludes me though; while network traffic needs to be kept minimal, there’s no reason why the graphics should be. The menu interface is predominantly text-based too, which could easily have been spruced up with some color and a few more images.

So are there any upsides to the graphics? The worlds are large, and load seamlessly into one another; there are no load times when entering/exiting cities or buildings. Then again, given the simplicity of the graphics, it isn’t surprising that this is the case. Likewise the frame rate is steady (albeit missing a 60fps mode), but this is no big achievement seeing that so many games with much juicier graphics have a constant frame rate also.

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Textures are quite dull...
With the many available RPG gems on the PS2, audio plays a big role in setting the mood and atmosphere for a game. How they could have mucked the sound up so poorly though in EQOA, is beyond my comprehension. While most RPGs have huge scores, containing dozens of songs, EQOA manages to come up with 2. Not 2 dozen, not 2 hundred, but 2. These are only played during the battles also, and become very repetitive, very quickly; if you like your game music, then you’re looking at the wrong game. Sound effects are compromised mainly of footsteps and birds chirping, with the occasional grunt or clashing of metal during fights. The ambience seemed to get a little confused at times also, where sometimes you can hear swarms of insects a considerable distance away, yet at other times they can be attacking you in near silence!

I started playing Everquest Online Adventures with a positive mind, having friends tell me that I was about to get hooked and lose my life to an amazing online fantasy world. While the charm of a MMORPG is present, the backing audio and visuals of a PS2 game seem to have been left behind in the port from the PC. Which is, partly, what this game feels like; an incomplete PC port (I realize there are differences between the PC and PS2 versions, but I’m not going that in-depth in this review). The PS2 version barely keeps up with the screenshots of the almost-5-year-old PC original, which really is saying something about how dated EQOA really looks. If you’re after a MMORPG for the PS2 there sadly isn’t much else to choose from at the moment. But, given that it’ll cost you up to $20/month in subscription fees on top of the game’s purchase price, you’d definitely want to try it out before signing your life away to the online world of EQOA.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSBlargh… I wouldn’t give a score this low unless I had to…
45%
SOUNDDone correctly, sound could have set an ideal atmosphere.
50%
GAMEPLAYControls are a little odd, but the engine is solid and good fun.
71%
VALUEUp to $20/month is a little steep, though the free trial month is nice.
52%
OVERALLFor a MMORPG, Everquest Online Adventures does the job, but looks no better than the PC version from yesteryear. Hopefully this marks the end of the first generation of MMORPGs on the PS2, and sets the standard for future games to improve on.
66%

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